Doug McIntyre

Radio Host · Columnist · TV/Film Writer-Producer · Event Emcee

Radio Host · Columnist · TV/Film Writer-Producer · Event Emcee

Coastal Commission harpoons SeaWorld

Shamu is now taboo.

After fighting off PR blow after PR blow, including CNN’s relentless airings of a damning documentary, “Blackfish”, alleging all kinds of mistreatment and cruelty, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.’s CEO Joel Manby threw in the towel, announcing the famed marine park would end it’s captive breeding program and phase out all live Orca shows sending 29 killer whales to the unemployment line.

SeaWorld surrendered.

For the record, I’ve never been to SeaWorld. I’ve also never been to Magic Mountain, never been on a ride at Universal Studios and have spent a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes at Disneyland. My daily life is thrill-ride enough.

While the PETA and Humane Society crowd celebrate this victory for “animal rights”, as an old ham myself, its hard not to feel sorry for Shamu and his companions. Once the roar of the crowd gets into your blood it’s hard to live without it.

Remember Keiko? No? How about Willy? Does that name ring a bell?

Keiko was a killer whale who was cast to play “Willy” in the hit 1993 film, “Free Willy” was the story of a killer whale trapped in a third-rate Mexican water park. There are still five dolphins and a tuna who insist they could have played Willy but the studios lack diversity.

Eventually Willy was set free and spent his golden years frolicking with his fellow whales among the Chinese cargo ships and plastic bags that make up the seven seas.

Unfortunately like many Hollywood stories, Keiko’s tale doesn’t end well.

After his 15-minutes Keiko was returned to his ancestral waters near Iceland and entered years of rehab. Eventually he couldn’t take it and swam off only to turn up performing his act in a Norwegian harbor. A few months later Keiko was dead.

So what’s to become of SeaWorld’s 29 killer whales?

I’m told they will not be sent to live at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills with other retired show folk. Instead SeaWorld says the Orcas will remain in their tanks until the end of their natural lives, which could mean decades of idleness.

Maybe they could find work with Caltrans?

It’s easy to think, “Don’t we have bigger fish to fry? Who cares about whales at an amusement park?” But SeaWorld’s surrender to the emotional blackmail of animal rights activists will only encourage more bullying by a mushrooming brigade of self-anointed moralists determined to shut down or censor whatever they decide is unacceptable.

It’s not just bible thumpers who want to control your lives.

For every activist who chains himself to the gates of a theme park there are also animal advocates who believe SeaWorld’s capitulation is bad news for Orcas.

“They have more swiftly ushered in the beginning of the sixth extinction”, says actress, author and advocate Carolyn Hennessey. “The ark that was SeaWorld has smashed itself on the rocks of the Human Society of the United States.”

Ms. Hennessy is a renowned animal advocate who travels the world to protect endangered elephant habitats and remains an outspoken critic of SeaWorld’s critics, including the all-powerful California Coastal Commission. Anyone who’s ever had a run-in with the CCC knows lawsuits are the court of first resort.

Once the omnipotent California Coastal Commission puts you in their crosshairs you have two choices; capitulate or litigate. The second option can empty the deepest pockets.

When SeaWorld applied to the CCC to expand their Orca enclosures the Coastal Commission mandated SeaWorld end their captive breeding program.

However you feel about SeaWorld or performing whales a non-elected, unaccountable government agency should not have the power to arbitrarily impose their “moral” mandates on corporations or private citizens.

Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekday mornings from 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: